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How To Set The Cleaning Fee For Your Short-term Vacation Rental

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

There has been a lot of discussion recently about what is considered a fair cleaning fee and what cleaning tasks are reasonable for the guest to do before checking out of a short-term vacation rental property. This article will discuss things to consider when you set your cleaning fee and what sorts of cleaning tasks we, as a cleaning company, think your guests should do before our housekeeper arrives.

What is a cleaning fee?

Hosts have the option of charging a cleaning fee to guests for their stays. This is a one-time, flat-rate cleaning fee per stay. Most hosts will just charge the guest whatever they have to pay a cleaning service to do the job. That's also what we would recommend.

What's the average cleaning fee for a vacation rental?

The average cleaning fee for a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home in the San Francisco Bay area is $150-$250 per stay. This can vary depending on the type of home, if pets are allowed, and the number of guests the home can accommodate. The cleaning fee will also depend on the cleaning service being used - whether that service is an independent contractor, service company, or is the owner of the property.

Use our Cleaning Calculator to see what you should charge for your Airbnb cleaning fee.

Why do guests prefer a flat-rate cleaning fee?

Price certainty is really helpful when budgeting for a vacation. It also allows for more transparency in a booking. Most booking sites require that cleaning fees, pet fees, etc are disclosed up front and a flat rate.

What should I charge for cleaning?

First, put together a list of things that need to be cleaned in order for your property to be ready for the next guest. Then, find a cleaning service that can do all those things. Pass along their service fee to your guests.

What should I do if I need to charge more for cleaning because a guest was really messy?

It happens. Some guests are just really messy. Some guests won't do any cleaning before they checkout. Your cleaning service may arrive and tell you that they have to charge extra because there is more to clean.

Most vacation rental sites ask that listings show a flat fee for cleaning. It would take some additional communication with your guest to agree that an additional cleaning fee may be added if the home is extra dirty. Most booking sites recommend putting this information in the listing and even communicating this policy to the guest before the booking is confirmed.

Should I just schedule a deep cleaning every time a guest checks out?

That's one way to do it. This has even become more commonplace since the pandemic. It has its pros and cons though.


  • The property is thoroughly cleaned every time.

  • You will cover your costs for just about any mess the guest leaves behind.


  • The higher cleaning fee could lead to fewer bookings.

  • You may not be able to offer same-day bookings because the cleanings will take longer.

How messy are vacation rental guests?

It's been our experience that most guests leave behind a mess that can be cleaned up with a general or standard cleaning service. Maybe 1 in 5 guests will create a larger mess that a cleaning company would charge extra for.

We notice that most guests will do the following:

  • Take out the trash.

  • Put all dirty towels in a pile.

  • Throw away perishable food products.

  • Sort of make the beds.

  • Wipe up any major spills.

That's really only about 15 minutes of work for a cleaning service. So they haven't really saved us that much time. In fact, trying to remake the bed actually increases the amount of time it takes to strip the bedding and replace it with new sheets.

Should I charge guests extra for cleaning the fridge or oven?

The inside of the refrigerator should always be cleaned between guests. That's a food contact surface and it's really gross to leave that dirty for a new guest. Make sure your cleaning company is aware that this needs to be done every time so that you can include this in your cleaning fee.

Guests may not even use the oven during their stay. Your cleaning service should check if the oven was used and wipe up any fresh grease stains on the door of the oven. If there's time, they could tackle some of the heavier baked-on debris. But, you'll want to check with your cleaning service for their policies and pricing for the oven.

We would recommend scheduling one-time deep cleanings as needed to care for something like this. You can also include things like the windows, and baseboards, or scrubbing the tile & grout in these one-off cleanings. These areas don't get dirty as often, so it's ok to exclude them from the regular turnover cleaning service.

How should I handle laundry for my vacation rental property?

Laundry can be tricky and expensive. It's possible that a home can be cleaned in less time than it takes to finish the laundry. This is especially true with larger homes that accommodate more guests.

You may come across a situation where your housekeeper is done cleaning the home. But the sheets are still in the dryer. Or maybe you still have a full load that needs to go in. Here are the most common reasons this happens:

  • The guests didn't leave behind much to clean.

  • The cleaning company sent a team to clean the home and finished in less time.

Your cleaning company can probably stay until the laundry is completed. During this time, they could do some deep cleaning while they wait. You would probably have to pay an extra fee if the cleaners have to stay beyond the amount of time they originally budgeted for the job.

Here are some solutions for managing laundry as well as things to consider for each approach.

Use a pick-up and delivery laundry service.

This works great if you're able to leave the laundry in a secure location for pick up and drop off. Or if you schedule the pick-up and drop-off to your home instead of the vacation rental property. Some laundry services will allow their employees to enter and exit the property if you provide them with a gate code or key. But you'll have to figure out how you'll put the laundry away once it's delivered. If you don't live in the same area as your rental property, this could be hard to accomplish.

Find a cleaning service that offers off-site laundry services.

Some cleaning companies offer off-site laundry services. This is a great option because they will be able to put the clean laundry back in the cabinets the next time they arrive to clean the home. It also means they don't have to wait around for the laundry to finish. Once the home is clean, they just pack up the laundry and take it back to their facility to wash.

Hosts will want to have 2-3 sets of sheets and extra towels at the property. This allows the cleaning staff to quickly restock the home for the next guest.

Ask your housekeeper if they can pick up and drop off the laundry.

A lot of pick-up and drop-off laundry services also offer customers the option of bringing their laundry to the facility to be cleaned. This option should cost less as well because the laundry facility doesn't have to pay a driver to pick up/deliver the laundry. Many times, they will charge by the pound if the laundry is brought to them. This is also a great way to save.

But, you'll need to pay your housekeeper for the cost of driving to and from the laundry facility. Check your state's current mileage reimbursement rates and then agree on an amount to pay the housekeeper for their time.

There is a lot to consider when setting up your vacation rental property costs. The main thing is to understand exactly what needs to be done to get your home ready for the next guest, then find a company that can help you do those things.

Fun things to recommend for your guests in Oakland

The Bay area is unique because you can drive about 2-4 hours in any direction and find everything from surfing to skiing. Guests will appreciate your recommendations for fun things to try out during their stay. Below are a few articles we've found that offer some suggestions you can pass along to your guests.


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